All along the Eastern seaboard, places known to millions as cheery summer getaways were battered to pieces Monday by the monstrous waves and wailing winds of Hurricane Sandy.
Part of Atlantic City's Boardwalk smashed into floating lumber and two people were killed in New York City. A million people in the metropolitan New York region lost power at some point during the day, some deliberately when wires were cut to avoid damage.
When the power went out at New York University's Tisch Hospital, the backup generator failed, too. More than 200 patients, including 20 infants in neonatal intensive care, had to be transferred to other hospitals, some on battery-powered respirators.
A 79 mph wind gust was reported at JFK International Airport, with a 90 mph gust report at Islip, N.Y.
In Queens Monday, a man died in a house hit by a falling tree and a woman died after stepping into an electrified puddle of water. A firefighter in Easton, Conn., also was reportedly killed when a tree fell on the fire engine while he was working.
Early Tuesday morning, firefighers in Queens were battling a massive fire involving dozens of houses and being fueled by natural gas lines, according to emergency radio dispatches. The six alarm fire reportedly destroyed at least 50 homes as of 4 a.m.
About 685,000 of ConEdison's New York customers were without power 4 a.m. Tuesday, with the majority in Queens, Yonkers and Staten Island.
"This will be one for the record books," said ConEdison's John Miksad, a senior vice president. "This will be the largest storm-related outage in our history."
In Rehoboth Beach, Del., Ocean City, Md., Long Beach Island, N.Y. and Atlantic City, N.J., and in smaller, less celebrated towns along the coast, piers and boardwalks crumbled, streets turned to canals and dunes washed away under massive waves by the time Hurricane Sandy made landfall near Atlantic City about 8:30 p.m. Monday.
The threat of the storm in the city could be heard as much in eerie silence left from evacuations as by the roar of wind and waves. Empty subway platforms, vacant streets, a ghostly Grand Central Terminal — all spoke of the power of the storm seasoned meteorologists have called epic and unprecedented.
New York City and Long Island received some of the heaviest storm surge, a tsunami-like wall of water pushed ashore by Sandy's winds that rose above the forecast 11 feet.
"We knew that this was going to be a very dangerous storm and the storm has met our expectations," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. "This is a once-in-a-long-time storm."
Rescue workers maneuvered through the metropolis in rafts. A four-story building's facade collapsed in the Chelsea neighborhood. The New York Stock Exchange closed Monday, the first closure of U.S. markets since the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks and the first weather-related closure in 27 years. The exchange was expected to remain closed Tuesday and the storm surge expected to begin receding.
In advance of what was expected to be the worst storm to hit New York since the devastating "Long Island Express" hurricane of 1938, the city halted mass transit, closed its bridges and two of its tunnels, evacuated low-lying areas of the five boroughs and hunkered down as Sandy churned implacably north.
Water poured into the Queens Midtown and Brooklyn-Battery commuter tunnels. Some subway tunnels in lower Manhattan lost power after water flooded the stations and tracks.
Fearing the saltwater would damage the subway system and electrical network, New York City's main utility shut off electricity to about 6,500 customers in lower Manhattan.
The winds blew loose a crane on a skyscraper under construction on 57th Street; it dangled precariously 65 stories high and the upper floors of neighboring buildings were evacuated.
In Atlantic City, about 80 feet of the Boardwalk at New Hampshire Avenue was torn away. Shortly after 11 p.m., the Delaware River Bridge linking the turnpikes in Pennsylvania and New Jersey was closed due to high winds and lack of lighting.
About 60 million people from the Mid-Atlantic to Canada were in the path of the nearly 1,000-mile-wide storm, which forecasters said could be the largest to hit the mainland in U.S. history as Sandy melded with two other weather systems into a rare and powerful hybrid, much like the celebrated "Perfect Storm" of 1991.
That earlier system never made landfall, so its destructiveness was limited. Sandy's impact, by contrast, was expected to be felt far from the Northeast. Portions of West Virginia and western Pennsylvania were readying for a blizzard, with snowfall of 2 feet or more. And the winds from the massive system promised to whip Lake Michigan near Chicago into waves 20 feet high.
In Philadelphia, several hundred people had gone to city shelters, with many more expected to arrive at nightfall when the worst of the storm was expected. Mayor Michael Nutter said the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers were likely to flood, putting residents on the east and west sides of the city at risk.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie declared a state of emergency, suspended mass transit service and said residents should be prepared for long-term power outages of 7 to 10 days.
Officials said shore communities were especially endangered by the storm because it coincided with high tides. Despite the danger, some residents in New Jersey, Maryland and elsewhere were refusing to heed evacuation orders.
With his typical bluntness, Christie called residents who refused to leave his state's barrier island communities "stupid" and said it may be impossible to rescue them.
He also slammed Atlantic City Mayor Lorenzo Langford for allowing people to shelter on the barrier island. One school serving as a shelter has flooded. Christie said the mayor should have insisted residents move inland.
"We're at a moment now where evacuation is no longer possible and we're no longer able to come and rescue people," Christie said at news conference Monday evening.
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley was equally blunt. "There will be people who die and are killed in this storm," he said at an earlier news conference at his state's emergency center.
In Fairfield, Conn., a coastal town, police were blocking access to the beaches. "People are definitely not taking this seriously enough," said Officer Tiffany Barrett, 38. "Our worst fear is something like Katrina and we can't get to people."
The Holland Tunnel and Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, which connect Manhattan to New Jersey and Brooklyn respectively, were closed, as were the Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan Bridge and other crossings. Nearly 400,000 people were ordered to evacuate the lowest-lying parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Twitter users were posting striking photos of the damage. One showed the pier at Ocean City, Md., with about 100 feet missing. Another showed an 80-foot stretch of shattered boardwalk in Atlantic City. A third showed inundated houses in Ocean City, N.J.
Power companies were preparing to deal with massive outages, having summoned backup crews from far and wide. Downed wires were only expected to be part of the problem, with wind and rain threatening substations and other equipment.
Rail commuters, cruise ship passengers and air travelers were being stranded as transportation ground to a halt across the east. New Jersey's Garden State Parkway was closed in both directions along its southern 63 miles because of flooding.
Airlines canceled more than 13,700 flights for Monday and Tuesday, according to flight-tracking service FlightAware. Philadelphia's airport was hardest hit, with more than 1,200 cancellations.
Amtrak canceled service in its Northeast corridor Monday and most Eastern seaboard service for Tuesday.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said cargo container operations were shut down, stranding millions of dollars worth of goods arriving for the holiday season.
This story was compiled from wire reports